Meet the people behind the gadgets at CES

Lei Zhang of Shenzhen Suoai Electronics and Technology, Shenzhen, China, gives product literature to a customer at her 2014 CES booth Wednesday, Jan. 8, 2014, at the Venetian.

2014 CES: The People

An attendee at CES takes a nap outside of a showroom within the Las Vegas Convention Center on Wednesday, Jan. 8, 2014. Launch slideshow »

It’s North America’s largest trade-show gathering.

The International Consumer Electronics Show brings more than 150,000 people to Las Vegas.

While attendance may be down this year as a result of thousands of flights across the country being canceled by conditions resulting from the polar vortex, there were still shoulder-to-shoulder crowds in many of the aisles of CES.

You’ve seen dozens of stories and television reports about the gadgets of CES. Here are a few snippets about some of the people of CES, from near and far:


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Karen Gabitanan talks about the new Burg Smartwatch technology she is showing in their display at CES within the Las Vegas Convention Center on Wednesday, Jan. 8, 2014.

Karen Gabitanan has found herself at the center of attention at CES this year.

The Las Vegas native is a model demonstrating one of the biggest buzz-producers of this year’s show — wearable technology.

Gabitanan is working the 2014 show for Dutch watch producer Burg, a company that has found success blending technology with style. She wears a Burg watch and fields basic questions, encouraging the curious to check out the line of watches that link smartphone technology to wristwatches via Bluetooth.

It’s the third CES gig for Gabitanan, a Rancho High graduate.

“This is my first watch company,” Gabitanan said between product mini-demonstrations. “Last year, I worked with a phone company. This year with Burg has been really great because so many people are interested in the product.”


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(from left) Matt Payne shows Don Houston of Plantronics some of the great new technology they have produced in their display at CES within the Las Vegas Convention Center on Wednesday, Jan. 8, 2014.

It was clear Don Houston was having a lot of fun maneuvering his car over a European road course at 100-mph-plus.

Who was this well-dressed executive motoring around pylons in the fast-paced race simulated game?

Houston is the senior vice president of Santa Cruz, Calif.-based Plantronics, a producer of wireless headphones that support the communications, music and computer gaming industries. Some of the company’s products have been used on NASA space missions.

“I usually don’t get a chance to sit down and play with these things,” Houston said after his onscreen car crashed. “I’m usually out there trying to sell them.”

Houston has been with the company for 17 years, but he doesn’t get to try out all the applications the products are a part of until he comes to CES. At the show, he is helping at the Plantronics booth and getting around to others to see the technology.

“It’s easily the most exciting show of the year,” Houston said.


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Lei Zhang of Shenzhen Suoai Electronics and Technology, Shenzhen, China, gives product literature to a customer at her 2014 CES booth Wednesday, Jan. 8, 2014, at the Venetian.

Imagine flying more than 12 hours from home to a place you’ve never been and getting plopped down to work four days at a show that draws tens of thousands of people.

That’s what Lei Zhang of Shenzhen Suoai Electronics and Technology of Shenzhen, China, did this week.

At CES, her company, based near Hong Kong, is showing mice and keyboards that have colorful LEDs emitting from between the keys that can be modified with seven different colors. Think mood lighting as you type. The keyboard also has an extra line of function keys.

Her first impression of CES: “Even though I’ve seen a lot of people here, it’s really not as crowded as I expected.”

Her first impression of Las Vegas: “It’s really amazing. But it may have too many hotels.”

She’s also a little intimidated by the traffic and relies on the shuttle bus to transport her from her Circus Circus hotel room to the booth at the Venetian.

When CES ends, she plans a shopping spree — in Los Angeles.


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James D. Farley, Jr., EVP Global Marketing with Sales and Service at Lincoln and Ford Motor Company, answers a panel question during a CES speaking event in the LVH Theatre on Wednesday, Jan. 8, 2014.

Why do some big companies like Ford come to CES?

Obviously, they like to show off the advances they’ve made in their own mobile technology. But they’re also here to learn so they can determine what technology will work best in the car models of the future.

James Farley, Ford’s executive vice president of global marketing, sales and service, participated in a panel on how rapid advancements in technology affect interactions with customers.

This year, Ford is keeping a close eye on the trends of wearable technology and how that will influence decisions on what to offer in future models.

Ford has been a tech leader with its Sync technology that enables drivers to make phone calls, navigate and play music without taking their hands off the steering wheel.

“We’re asking what do wearables mean to Ford,” Farley said at the panel. “How will they impact the driving experience? Do you put the added cost in the car or do you count on consumers to find what they want and support that?”

Several car companies have begun studying what Google Glass technology could mean for motorists. Farley said CES affords the opportunity to meet with innovators to explore what will work best in the driver’s seat.


It’s not uncommon to see people sprawled out on the floors of the hallways between the various convention halls at CES. With hundreds of thousands of square feet of exhibits to see, lots of people just find a comfortable corner and take a rest, check email and make phone calls.

Some even turn the floor into a makeshift office.

A team from did its last-minute organizing before setting out to make a lot of people happy.

Company representatives Kelly Johnson and Raymond Fong and public relations specialist Dana Kuritzkes of Rogers & Cowan in Los Angeles were organizing paperwork and laid out all the blue ribbons they were about to award for TechRadar’s Best of CES 2014.

“We’re getting ready to go out to the booths to present the awards,” Johnson explained.

There are 21 awards in a variety of categories, from Best Cellphone to Best In-Home Gizmo.


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Kevin Jackson (center) answers questions for all visitors for need assistance at CES in the Las Vegas Convention Center on Wednesday, Jan. 8, 2014.

“Ask me.” And lots of people do.

Kevin Jackson wears the hat and stands at a natural gathering point for people — the shuttle bus area where people get on and off buses from various resorts 80 at a time or transport CESers between the two primary venues for the show, the Las Vegas Convention Center and the Venetian and Sands Exposition Center.

Hundreds of people will ask Jackson all sorts of things.

What’s the most common question?

“What’s the fastest way for me to get back to my hotel room?” he said.

Jackson, a 22-year resident of Las Vegas, is contracted to serve as an information guide at some of Las Vegas’ large trade shows and conventions. He loves to interact with the crowd and particularly enjoys CES because of its high energy.

Because of where he’s stationed, Jackson gets a lot of transportation inquiries.

“They’ll ask me about going places by taxi,” he said. “They’ll ask me how far the monorail runs. Does it go close to the Mirage?”

Jackson also likes to greet international guests in their native languages.

“I’m trying to learn some Chinese now,” he said. “There are a lot of Chinese people who come to shows like this so I thought it would be good to learn some.

“It’s great to see them smile when I say it right.”